December 8th: A very significant day of celebration in Pátzcuaro

This is one of the most important dates on the calendar for the people of Pátzcuaro.  It’s the day we celebrate our famous Virgin of Health – the miraculous figure to whom thousands of people make the annual pilgrimage of worship and honor.

In 1536, the famous Don Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Michoacán, charged the indigenous people (Purépecha) of the area with creating the image.  Using the pith of corn stalk, it was the ancient method used by the Purépechas to create their own images.  The center of the stalk is dried, pulverized, made into a clay mixture, and shaped.   

The first home of the Virgin was the Chapel of the Hospital de Pátzcuaro and she was called “Salud de los Enfermos” (“for the health of the sick”).  But due to her reputation for miraculous recoveries of the sick, her name was changed to “Nuestra Señora de la Salud” (“blessed Mary of Health”).

The pilgrimages to visit the Virgin became ever more popular and the modest Chapel of the Hospital of Pátzcuaro soon could not accommodate all the faithful coming to see her.  So in 1691, construction on the Sagrario was begun; it was a much larger temple where many more faithful could visit her.

In 1737, the Virgen de la Salud was proclaimed Patron Saint of Pátzcuaro.  In 1747, the Dominican Convent was established, and the nuns have the honor of taking care of the Virgin.

In 1880, the Virgin was transferred to the Sagrario (yes, the Sagrario was under construction for almost two centuries), and in 1899, in recognition of the Virgin’s miraculous qualities, the Pope ordered that she be formally honored by the Pope’s representatives in Pátzcuaro.  The Virgin was later installed in the position of the highest honor – high above the altar of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud de Pátzcuaro, where she remains to this day.

For what is now the Basílica in Pátzcuaro, Don Vasco de Quiroga imagined a grand cathedral of five annexes.  Construction was begun in 1543.  For a variety of reasons, only one of the annexes – now the principal – was completed.  It bore the name “cathedral.”  In 1580, the diocese was moved to Valladolid (today, Morelia), and the title was changed from “cathedral” to “rectory.”  In 1924, its status was raised to that of “Basílica.”

These days, thousands of believers congregate to Pátzcuaro throughout the year to ask the Virgin to see to the health of the loved ones.  Countless cases of miraculous recoveries are attributed to the fervent prayers of the faithful.

In 1962, a despicable attempt was made to damage the Virgin.  The deranged individual fired 10 bullets, barely missing the Virgin.  She was undamaged, which is considered yet another miracle.

Finally, it’s important to note that the remains of Don Vasco de Quiroga – the beloved “Tata Vasco” of the indigenous – are resting in the Basílica of Pátzcuaro.

*Text and pictures property of Hotel Mansion Iturbe.

Hotel Mansion Iturbe
Portal Morelos 59
Plaza Vasco de Quiroga
61600 Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.

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